Late Friday evening, the FDA approved the widespread use of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine in a move that could mark the beginning of the end of the pandemic.
It comes after a preliminary US government advisory panel endorsed it in a 17-4 vote with one abstention over a Zoom call on Thursday. The experts concluded that the vaccine appears safe and effective for emergency use in adults and teenagers 16 and over.
President Trump's Operation Warp Speed yielded impressive vaccine results in record time.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2020
“I don’t think you would have found a scientist on this planet that would have predicted this 11 months ago,” said Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who advises the FDA.
The FDA's final endorsement opens the door for an epic vaccination campaign against the virus that has killed nearly 300,000 Americans.
"We really want to treat this vaccine as the liquid gold that it is because it's really the only tool that we have right now in our toolbox to cure this disease," said Susan Mashni, Vice President of Pharmacy for the Mount Sinai Health System.
Within 24-hours Pfizer will be able to send out the first 2.9 million doses.
"We can act quickly and we intend to and understand the urgency of the situation...we want to make sure we make the best decision for the American people," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn.
The Pfizer vaccine was found to be 95 percent effective with no serious side effects. While there are a number of remaining unknowns about the vaccine, in an emergency, "the question is whether you know enough" to press ahead, said panel member Dr. Paul Offit. He concluded that the potential benefits outweigh the risks.
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The first doses of the vaccine will go to health care workers and nursing home residents.
This pivotal moment comes as the US reaches another grim milestone – over 300,000 deaths in a single day. That's a reported fatality from the virus every 30 seconds.
"People still don't think this is a big deal, they think it's kind of fake news... it's not, it's real. The numbers are absolutely real," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Many Americans still have questions about vaccines. According to a new Associated Press poll, only about half say they're ready to take the shot.
Pfizer says it can have about 25 million doses of the vaccine for the US by the end of December, and it likely won't be the only option for long.
Officials are hopeful we'll soon have authorization from the FDA for Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson's vaccines as health experts hope these preventive medicines will finally defeat the outbreak.